We’re lucky to live close by to several areas of natural beauty… but often is the way when you’re focused on the day-to-day, that these stunning landscapes can be pushed aside in favour of a trip to the shops or to the local park, as they can be the closest and within walking distance.
So, when grandad from ‘up north’ came down recently to visit, we wracked our brains as to where to take him. Grandad is a keen walker and we really wanted to show him exactly how lovely our surrounding countryside is. Because we used to live in London, he still classes our little slice of suburbia as the ‘city’. We’re hardly rural by any stretch, but just 15-20 minutes drive away it can feel a completely different environment.
We opted to take him to Box Hill, in Surrey. I’ve grew up around the area, and not only did I have to negotiate the steep climbs during my Duke of Edinburgh expeditions as a teenager (do you remember those?) but we used to go on balmy summer nights and take picnics, laze about drinking cheap booze and marvelling at the views, gossiping about school friends and boys. But this was the first time I had been back in several years, so I was probably the most excited out of all of us.
Box Hill is a summit of the North Downs and takes its name from the ancient box woodland found on the steepest west-facing chalk slopes overlooking the River Mole. The western part, which is closest to us, is owned by The National Trust, and some 850,000 visitors flock to see the outstanding views each year. You may remember that Box Hill also featured heavily in the 2012 Olympics Cycling Road racing events, where thousands of cheering people lined the roads to watch Bradley Wiggins and Chris Frome speed to medal victory.
There are several walks over the hills along various footpaths, and you can go to the visitors centre to get all the information you need to tackle them. During the year there are also particular events from sledging during snowfall, or you’re even able to borrow kites! Kids are encouraged to obtain ‘tracker packs’ to spot all the wonderful foliage and wildlife that is abundant in the area.
Monkey brought along his balance bike to ride, and he loved whizzing up and down the footpaths. But it didn’t take long for it to be dumped in favour of walking! We all loved running down the steep hills – although coming back up wasn’t as much fun!
We then took a path leading us through woodland – which brought us out on to a wonderful viewing point and, after spotting several photographers setting up their tripods, we settled on a bench with prime position to watch the sun setting over the Downs. Unfortunately, my amateurish photography skills don’t do it justice, but it was magnificent.
While there was enough dusk light for us to see, we started making our way back to the car. The sun was just peeking behind the trees…
My father-in-law was pretty impressed with Box Hill. He was surprised by not only the view of rolling green hills, but how the Surrey countryside sprawled beneath him. He admitted he didn’t even realise it could be so scenic so close to London. And I’m glad we got to open his eyes – as he’s very keen for us to show him some more rural spots next time he’s down. Of course, we’ll happily oblige…